Idyllwild Water District President Allan Morphett doffs a Santa’s elf cap in the spirit of the holiday prior to the board meeting. Photo by J.P. Crurmrine

In its last meeting before 2013, the Idyllwild Water District board changed the number of paid employee holidays, continued to move forward on additional storage capacity in the Tollgate Zone and kept the same committee memberships for the coming year.

The number of holidays will be 14 in 2013. This includes 12 calendar holidays such as New Year’s Eve and Day and Independence Day, as well as two additional holidays, which are not classified as annual leave. Neither of these will accrue if the employee does not use them. One is a floating holiday and the other a “Necessity” day.

This is a reduction of two paid holidays and will save the district money, according to General Manager Terry Lyons.

“On Dec. 6, we met with employees and listed where we are and what we needed to accomplish to move forward financially,” President Allan Morphett said. “We’ve shared these changes with them.”

Nevertheless, Director John Cook was the sole negative vote against the new holiday policy. He argued that the two extra (nonspecific) holidays should come from an employee’s leave allotment. Employee Steve Kunkle explained that since the district needs to have staff available for emergencies on holidays, even though they are paid, the floating holiday still allows them the opportunity to have a day off.

The board transferred $20,000 from reserves to establish a new account for the planning and construction of a 300,000-gallon storage tank in the Tollgate Zone. The additional storage will mitigate the additional water demand created by proposed new construction at Idyllwild Arts.

The district and Idyllwild Arts have completed a joint inventory and audit of water fixtures at the school. While the sewer data is still being compiled, Lyons reported that the total number of water units counted is greater than the current total attributed to the school. Once the sewer units are totaled, the board will assess the next step with the school.

IWD has purchased two properties this fall. The first was the site of Well No. 23 along Strawberry Creek. In the past month, the district purchased about 3.25 acres where its Goldenrod storage tank and well are located. The cost of the former was about $125,000 and the three-acre Goldenrod site was acquired for $57,000.

The land purchases are part of the board’s effort to maximize its resources and provide flexibility for operations while limiting costs, according to Morphett. “Well 23 was already running but owned by a third party which limited our access. The well is a good producer and with the purchase we have the option of drilling another well on the property,” he explained.

“Goldenrod offers us the ability to control the property around the existing tank … while at the same time limiting our expenses,” he added.

Since the board voted in October to end the low-flow rebate program on Dec. 31, Lyons said that requests for rebates have accelerated. “Providing notice that we will end the rebate program did spur customers to take advantage of the program before it ends on Dec 31,” he said in an email. “For November and December, we had 35 requests for rebates.”

At this point last year, IWD had 23 rebate requests and over the life of the program there were only 350 requests.

Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman reported that November revenues were slightly below the budgeted amount due to residential customers’ lower water consumption.

Although November’s water production of 6.5 million gallons was 13 percent more than November 2011, total production for the calendar year is two percent less than a year ago and nearly 19 percent less than 2009’s production.

Water supply is also tenuous. Lyons reported that the level of Foster Lake has fallen further and is approaching 4 feet. Eighteen feet depth is the maximum.